The Dying Game by Asa Avdic

Thank you to Penguin Random House and First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

The premise for this novel seemed so interesting, and I thought it would be the perfect read when flying off to my vacation destination. It was portrayed as a thriller … and we all know how much I love my thrillers!

In the year 2037, 7 people are chosen to participate in a 48-hr competition on the tiny island of Isola. Their prize: a top-secret intelligence position with the totalitarian Union of Friendship. Anna Francis didn’t really want to be a part of this. But as a workaholic bureaucrat with a 9-year-old daughter to care for, she didn’t really have a choice. Plus the Union President knows her secret … and if that was ever discovered, it would destroy her. However, Anna isn’t really a candidate for the position; in fact, she is the test. Her assignment is to stage her own death and then observe how the other 6 candidates behave from her hiding place. Everything is set in place… but then a storm rolls in, the power goes out, and the real game begins ….

This is one of those times where the premise is better than the actual story. I thought I was getting into something that would be intensely thrilling and packed with action. Instead, this book was slow paced, with tons of little anecdotes on Anna’s life before this competition. The author switched between different points in time and different characters. While this was interesting and appreciated, it made it super easy to guess what happened and what was going to happen in terms of the competition. That was a bit of a let-down because I was hoping it would be something of a mystery or a twist … and there wasn’t one. The novel may be set in 2037 but there really wasn’t too much that made it different than 2017, so that was a bit useless in my opinion. Overall, this novel just let me down. I was expecting a thriller but instead, I got an okay novel about a competition where I had already guessed the main points of the story.

Happy reading ~

Vector by James Abel – Joe Rush #4

I’m always excited to read novels that deal with biological warfare or viruses. Thank you to First to Read program and Penguin Random House for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Joe Rush is at an Amazon gold rush studying new forms of malaria, when his best friend, Eddie Nakamura, disappears. As Rush begins to search for Eddie, he discovers that many sick miners have also vanished.
Miles away, tons of sick people are starting to appear in US hospitals. When the White House admits that they received terrorist threats, cities all over begin to shut down. Rush and his team must come back to America, as the clock ticks toward an unimaginable annihilation. Time is short because the situation, while bad, is about to get even worse.

While this novel is part of a series, you can easily read it as a standalone. Now, I’ve read quite a few biological thrillers. The best praise I can give for this novel is that it wasn’t terrible. There was nothing that I really loved about this novel but it wasn’t terrible enough to warrant a bad rating. I had no feelings while reading this book. I didn’t get excited, I didn’t get attached to any characters… it was just a blah experience for me. This novel is mostly told from Joe’s perspective but it does shift to other POVs – including that of a mosquito. Yeah, you read that right. A mosquito. It was weird and I’m not sure if it was really necessary or helpful. I appreciated the amount of research that the author did on malaria; it was very thorough and gave reader an indepth knowledge into the disease as well as how mutations work in general. Overall, this novel was okay. It wasn’t really memorable but it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read.

Happy reading ~

Skitter by Ezekiel Boone – The Hatching #2

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I read The Hatching, which is the prequel to this novel, it made me terrified of spiders. It was an amazingly freaky novel that had so many elements that worked so wonderfully and I just loved every minute of the adventure, while also being horrified with every page I turned. I was super excited to read this sequel and I have been holding back for a long time on writing this review, so here you go:

Since the discovery of the spiders, millions of people around the world are dead. No country is safe, and the mysterious flesh-eating spiders are running rampant all through America. Scientist Melanie Gruyer is hoping that the spider situation will change and finally become easier to deal with. However, Japan has just noticed the presence of a giant glowing egg sack that threatens to break that illusion, at the same time as survivors in Los Angeles begin to panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are bored out of their mind and decide to invent a weapon to defeat the spiders … but it may all be in vain because President Pilgrim has just enacted the Spanish Protocol. America, it’s every man for themselves.

I didn’t think the sequel could be as good as the first book. It was. Once again, the author seamlessly tied in multiple events and characters in a way that worked. Every single person was important in depicting the mass destruction and chaos wrought by these spiders. It was spectacular to see this large-scale disaster being orchestrated so beautifully by the author …. while also creeping me out! The author kept the tension high and raised the stakes with new revelations about these spiders and the way they attack people. What I loved about this book was that the author managed to tease out various emotions while also writing such a fast-paced novel. I could literally see various different characters going through so many complex emotions and I was really able to connect and live this experience through them. The novel ends in a cliffhanger and I seriously need the author to write the next novel ASAP because I HAVE to know what’s going on! If you are looking for a fantastic thriller with loads of adventure and spiders, then please please please do yourself a favour and give this series a try! It’s definitely worth the effort!

Happy reading ~

Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a collection of short stories that all revolve around the idea of technology and the ways in which we use it to communicate and make our lives simpler. The stories in this book take place in the near future and show the good – and the bad – side of technology. I found the premise interesting enough to follow it up with a request, so thank you to the author, publishers and NetGalley for this ARC!

Children of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, immersive virtual reality games, and intuitive robots.
In “The Cartographers,” the main character works for a company that creates and sells virtual memories, but he soon begins to struggle differentiating what is real from his own creations. In “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” the robotic brother of an adopted Chinese child malfunctions, and it is only when he is gone that the family realizes how real of a son he was.  Children of the New World grapples with our unease in this modern world and our ever-growing dependence on new technologies.

The idea behind every story is brilliant. There are memories that you can order and implant, virtual worlds that you can live in, instant messages that you can send through technology implanted in your eye…. the possibilities are endless. But each story is disquieting in the way it peels back the layers and shows the flip side to the zealous use of technology. The author shows irony at its finest in this short story collection. However, while the concept and the ideas themselves are brilliant, the characters are not. In every story, it felt like there was just a lack of emotion. Every character fell flat and seemed lifeless. There was no connection between the reader and the characters, which resulted in apathy towards the fate of said characters. Most of my time was spent musing on the interesting scenarios that the author presented rather than focusing on the lives of these characters and the difficulties they faced as a result of technology. Overall, while the concept was interesting, the characters were not, and this is why I would give this a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett

I have been super excited to read this novel because it had such a unique dystopian presence. I like the idea of space travel and thought it would be an interesting element to this dystopian novel. Thank you to the First to Read program by Penguin Randomhouse for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space, so much so that she willingly left Earth and moved to a more isolated planet. It is the perfect way for her to escape the sadness of her dissolving relationship. And then the virus hit. Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone. But a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that there may be survivors. When she finds some of them, their ragtag group will travel through vast stretches of space to try to start a new life on Earth. But their dream becomes harder and harder to reach as they face off against those trying to maintain the old ways of life.

If you are looking for a sci-fi heavy novel, then this one is not for you. This novel turned out to be a lot more philosophical as the physical journey the survivors take gives way to their inner journey. It was a novel that had enough suspense to keep you going, and didn’t drag you down with too many words. It never tried to impose any ideas on you, and allowed the reader to come to their own conclusions about each of the characters. I quite enjoyed the writing style and the revelations of the different characters. However, the main character was hard for me to empathize with. She was constantly whining, and rarely helpful. She became an irritating character who didn’t really do much to redeem herself. Overall, this novel is a very nicely written philosophical novel that takes place in a dystopian universe. However, the main character is hard to connect with at times, and the novel doesn’t have a heavy sci-fi connection (even though that is what it was portrayed to be). For all these reasons, I would give this novel a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Undying by Ethan Reid

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What drew me to this novel was the comparison that was made between this story and The Passage. Although I haven’t written a blog post about it yet, The Passage by Justin Cronin is one of my favorite books of all time. So, it makes sense that with a claim like this, I kind of HAVE to read this book and see if it lives up to my expectations.

Jeanie and Ben are just looking for a fun time when they arrive in Paris to celebrate the coming of the New Year with their friends. Everything is festive and fun – until all the lights go out at midnight. By the next morning, all hell has broken loose. There are fireballs raining down from the sky, buildings destroyed, people running around screaming. Whatever has happened in Paris, no one has any idea how far its effects have spread. As Jeanie, Ben, and their friends try to flee the burning city, they are worried of what is yet to come. So far, only Jeanie has witnessed pale, vampiric survivors who seem to have a strong hold on her whenever she sees them. These cunning beings soon become known as les moribund – the undying – and their numbers increase drastically. When fate puts a newborn baby in Jeanie’s care, she will stop at nothing to keep the infant safe and get out of Paris – even if it means leaving everyone else behind.

I’m struggling as to where I should begin. I did not enjoy this book. I really did not. It did not live up to the expectations I had and it in no way is comparable to The Passage. So what made it fail?

For one thing, the characters. They were so stereotypical. You need your whiner/pessimist, your comedic relief character, and the determined, courageous, selfless lead. The author didn’t really do anything to make them unique as they acted just like these descriptions I gave you. I sort-of liked Jeanie because she had guts and was a go-getter, but I had no emotional connection to her. The way the characters spoke and interacted was stilted and emotionless, making it really hard to visualize. The whole baby idea sounded interesting in the premise but it was poorly executed; Jeanie is just handed this baby and within 2 seconds, she is all gaga about this child and having flashbacks and talking about how therapeutic holding a baby is. Seriously? There is a disaster going on, so you need to hustle and maybe you should be having some doubts about taking on this baby instead of just smiling and cooing at it. While that bothered me, what annoyed me even more was that as the story progressed, the baby became more of an object than an important part of the story. I mean, this story could have still worked without this infant thrown into it.

I did not like the writing style employed here. The prologue that was in the beginning was confusing, and turned out to be linked to the ending of the book. When I was reading the novel, I was unaware of this, so the prologue just made me confused, not intrigued. I also hated that the story kept flitting back between French and English; while I understand French (thank you to my french teachers all through high school!), it was frustrating to switch back and forth in the book and also to have Jeanie feel confused about what was being said as she translated things in her head. There were also too many pointless flashbacks. Literally every paragraph was followed by some mini-flashback to a tragic event in Jeanie’s life. I get it, it is a sad thing, boohoo, now let’s move on to the action! There are zombies and mutinies going on outside, and I really don’t want to be spending my time reading about how sad Jeanie is that her father passed away. There were also short chapters that were flashbacks thrown right in at random points that did nothing to add to the plot and were a complete waste of time to read.

I really don’t want to continue to bash this book. I know that the author must have put a lot of effort into writing this story, and I do acknowledge that. Suffice to say, it did not work for me on many different levels. It is part of a series, however based on my experience with this novel, I have no plans on continuing to read on.

Happy reading ~

Dreams Before The Start of Time by Anne Charnock

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

As soon as I read about the premise of this novel, I was excited for it. Here is a sci-fi novel that is set in the near future and isn’t something post-apocalyptic. Instead it shows how people and society has changed due to technological advances in one particular field: birthing.

In a London not too far into the future, Millie Dack is resolute in her decision to be a single parent. Across town, her best friend Toni Munroe discovers a devastating medical diagnosis. As Millie and Toni try to embrace and adjust to this new change in their lives, they experience the aftershocks of human progress as new ways of making babies emerge. When infertility is no longer an issue, and each sex can create a child all on their own, what does it mean to be a parent, a child, a family?

I was expecting something spectacular. This book did not develop. I actually found the technological aspects to be really cool but that was the only positive thing about this novel. Based on the premise, I was expecting a very character-driven story that explores complex relationships and emotions between the different people involved in this story as they go from one generation to another. However, that did not happen. It felt like I was reading an interesting textbook rather than a fiction story. None of the characters were expressive enough and there was no emotional connection for me. I didn’t feel anything for anyone in the book and I couldn’t believe in the relationships that were established in the novel, either. In that sense, this novel made me really upset. I wanted it to be so interesting and different and there was so much potential for that to happen. Instead, I got a dry book with no feelings or emotion, except for a huge wave of disappointment from my end. In the end, this was not a good novel for me.

Happy reading ~

Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a novel that I have been really excited to read. It’s got that fantasy element along with government conspiracies and that’s all I really needed to peak my interest. Patiently waiting for the release month has been a difficult task, but I did it! So here is my review:

In 1928, the U.S. Government gathered up the people of Innsmouth and kept them in the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. The only ones who survived the brutal camps are Aphra and Caleb Marsh, and they are left with nothing. Now, that same government needs Aphra’s help. FBI agent Ron Spector suspects that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that threaten the existence of the human race. Aphra must now return to the ruins of her old home and put together the scraps of her stolen history in order to face a deadly enemy – the darkness of human nature.

As I had mentioned, this was a novel that I was very excited to read. But there were 2 things I was unaware of when I first requested this book: 1) it’s based on Lovecraft’s work, and 2) there was a novella that serves as a prequel to this novel. My ignorance on these things hindered my ability to understand and enjoy this novel, resulting in me giving up on this book after about 5 or 6 chapters. I found myself confused by what was happening and the constant jumps in time. The familiarity on certain topics and concepts took me off guard and the explanations weren’t very handy right away…. and I really didn’t want to keep reading in order to find out. I think what really stopped me from continuing to give this book a shot was the fact that it was very slow-paced; it took forever for the story to get going. Between that and my complete bewilderment on the topic, I lost interest and unfortunately did not finish this novel. I hate not completing a story, especially when I’ve received an ARC but I just couldn’t find it in me to push through. Because I didn’t finish, I’m not going to give a rating for this book. Instead, I urge fans of Lovecraft and those who have read the novella that is a companion to this story, to give this novel a chance. I am sure that the story would make way more sense and be a lot more interesting for someone who actually understands the references that are being made in this book!

Happy reading ~

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel – Themis Files #2

When I received the ARC for this novel, it was all I could do to wait until the release day to read it. I generally try to read ARCs close to their publishing date, but it was a struggle for me to wait for this one. I absolutely LOVED Sleeping Giants, and I’ve been waiting for so long to find out what the author had in store for the sequel. So thank you to the author, publishers, and NetGalley for allowing me access to this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

When Rose Franklin was a little girl, she fell onto a giant metallic hand buried within the Earth.  Now that she’s an adult, she has spent her life working to solve the mystery of the hand as a scientist. After years of investigation, she has produced some intriguing answers – and even more perplexing questions – about this robot and its origins. And the need for more information becomes urgent when a second robot, more massive than the first, appears and uses deadly force. Now, humankind is faced with a danger that they are in no way equipped to handle. Can Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps unlock the last secrets of this advanced alien technology and keep Earth – and all of its inhabitants – safe?

When I compare this novel to the first one in the series, I have to admit that it wasn’t as good. That being said, this novel was really really cool and it took the story in a direction I wasn’t expecting. The author did a good job of resolving a lot of questions from the first book in this one, and that felt sooooo satisfying to me; I hate unanswered questions! He also left me with a lot more questions, which I HOPE will be answered in another book! There were a couple new characters introduced, and they were nice additions to the story. There was also the brief return of other characters into the plot line, and this was done in a very nice, cohesive way. I’m going to give a mini-spoiler here: some characters die. Their deaths made me really really sad, especially because I really liked them. However, I’m curious to see how this series will move in the next installment (which I hope will be released soon)! This novel had a lot of action, a lot of science, and enough confusion to keep the reader intrigued and perplexed, in the best way possible. I’m really in love with the author’s writing style, as the novel continues to be written in interview, letter, and email format; it just makes for such an interesting read. If you liked the first book, you are going to have a great time with this one. And if you like science fiction, and alien robots, then you need to get this series on your must-read list!

Happy reading ~

The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Although I’ve been meaning to get a lot of reading done this week, I have literally had no time. I’ve had so many deadlines for my classes and experiments to conduct in my lab that I have just been exhausted. I promise to make more time this weekend, however, and get as much reading done as possible!

Ever since her husband and soulmate passed away, Faye has been an empty shell of herself. She remarried and tried to have children, only to be trapped in a loveless marriage and have failed miscarriages. Finally, Faye decides to stop this charade and get a divorce, to which her husband agrees. With only her car and a few dollars to her name, Faye leaves to make a fresh start in Beaufort, South Carolina, where she has been commissioned to photograph historic buildings. She quickly falls in love with the town and its beautiful, haunting lighthouse. But upon a visit to the lighthouse, Faye falls into the water … and emerges in 1921 to a body that is not her own – and into the arms of a man who looks identical to Will.

I don’t typically read romance novels. But this one, with its allusions to time travel, were too interesting to pass up. This is my first time reading anything by this author, but all of her other books have received stellar reviews, which made me feel quite hopeful when beginning this one.

So, let me start by saying that the romance angle was pretty spot-on. The interactions between the main characters was believable and deep. You could feel the depth of Faye’s despair when she was battling her depression, and you could feel the rise in hope when she emerged in 1921. I wish the novel had spent more time showing how she falls in love with Will’s look-alike because I wanted to savor their chemistry more!

There was some mystery as to why Faye’s fate was connected with the lighthouse. Unfortunately, that wasn’t really answered. I wish it had been; it would have added some more complexity to this story. One thing I didn’t like was the awkwardness of Faye’s time travel; every time she travelled back to her original time, it felt abrupt and pointless. It’s not like the time she spent in her own world was spent productively; she didn’t really do any digging or research into the history or “magic” behind the lighthouse.  There are quite a few references to religion, which I don’t necessarily like but that didn’t really bother me. My general thoughts on the plot were that it was predictable and uninteresting.

The author created a story with a sweet romance and some paranormal happenings. The main focus in this story is about hope and fate, and it was well-written. However, there is no real plot or mystery to it, and if you are looking for something with more of a body, then this is not the novel for you. Overall, it was a pleasant romance to read that will put a smile on your face.

Happy reading ~